Monday, December 17, 2012

Players capsules: Murphy, Webb, Jakubauskas

The Brewers actually did something today, signing utility infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor-league deal. Since players of his ilk have a tendency to end up on the Brewers major league team at some point, I figured he was worth writing about, in conjunction with a couple other mildly interesting minor deals they've consummated.

Name: Donald "Donnie" Murphy
Birthdate: March 10, 1983 (age 29)
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 5'10, 190
Position: 2B, SS, 3B
Looks like: 

Originally a 5th-round pick by the Royals in the 2002 MLB draft, Murphy has done a fair share of bouncing around in his career. He spent 2004-2006 with Kansas City, '07-'08 with the A's, '09 in the Orioles' organization, and most recently was a member of the Florida/Miami Marlins. Offensively, Murphy looks like the stereotypical "quad A" player, someone who hit fine in the minors (.279/.347/.461) but cannot translate it to the majors (.205/.270/.373). He has a bit of power (18 home runs in 640 career MLB at-bats) but strikes out a ton, basically making him a younger version of Cody Ransom, just without the walks.

Like Ransom, his saving grace is his glove and versatility. He can play all the infield positions (aside from 1B), and plays them pretty well. His range isn't spectacular, but he has soft hands and a good arm.

If he were to make the team, his role would be similar to the role Craig Counsell held in past seasons, a defensive replacement type who can occasionally start. If Murphy were to receive substantial playing time, it would either mean he achieved a late-career Justin Ruggiano-type offensive breakout or that something terrible has happened. Let's hope something terrible doesn't happen.

Oh yeah, and his middle name is Rex.

Name: Christopher Jakubauskas
Birthdate: December 22, 1978 (age 33)
Bats/Throws: L/R (?!)
Height/Weight: 6'2, 215
Position: SP/RP
Looks like: 
Chris Jakubauskas has a pretty incredible backstory. He's Lithuanian-American, and was a first baseman at the University of Oklahoma who didn't convert to pitching until after he graduated. Jaku (as I'll now call him to avoid carpal tunnel) pitched in independent league ball for a few years before the Seattle Mariners took notice and signed him to a minor league deal. After toiling in the minors for two years, Jaku finally made the Mariners' opening day roster in 2009. He appeared in 35 games that season split between starting and relief and even tossed a complete game, albeit in a loss. He would spend 2010 in the Pirates' organization, 2011 with the Orioles, and 2012 split between the Blue Jays' and Diamondbacks' minor league systems. Jaku sustained a scary head injury with pitching with the Pirates, taking a Lance Berkman line drive off his head during a start against the Houston Astros that left him with a concussion. Sadly, that's probably his most significant major league moment.

As far as stuff, Jaku throws four pitches; a fastball that sits 88-92, a curveball in the mid-70s, and will occasionally use a low-80s changeup and a high-80s cutter. His curve is probably his best pitch, but I use the word "best" liberally. He tends to pitch to contact, and while his groundball rate isn't shabby, he has a pretty serious homer problem (career 1.41 HR/9). His career .307/.375/.531 line against lefties is fairly problematic as well.

Considering the team's depth at starting pitching, it's hard to see Jakubauskas making any real impact on the Brewers next year. If things work out just right for him, he could carve out a role as a long man, but it's more likely he's just an arm for AAA.

Name: Travis Webb
Birthdate: August 2, 1984
Bats/Throws: L/L
Height/Weight: 6'4, 205
Position: SP/RP
Looks like:
A former 8th-round pick in the 2006 draft, Webb spent seven years in the Reds' minor league system, making 95 starts among 172 appearances. He was used primarily as a reliever the last two seasons, which is probably his role long-term.

He uses four pitches; a fastball that sits 86-90 and has a little cut to it, a slider that sits around 80, a changeup in the high 70s, and a seldom used curveball in the low 70s. His arm angle and rough walk numbers (career 4.7 BB/9) will keep him in the relief role, and his arm angle will likely limit him to a lefty-specialist role. Aside from his shaky control, he's a flyball pitcher who has experienced some home run issues in the past. Since he's transitioned to the bullpen, however, his strikeout rate has spiked (10.9 K/9 in 2011-12) and he boasts a 2.72 FIP against lefties.

Even if the Brewers add a couple more relief arms in free agency, Webb probably has a shot at making the team as a lefty specialist if he can tighten up his control a little. The team hasn't had a decent lefty since Mitch Stetter's last good year in 2009, and Webb could end that string of futility. If nothing else, he can at least provide minor league depth and give the team an option should a need arise.

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